Over the weekend Byte, a successor to the dearly departed looping video app Vine, launched. Like Vine, Byte also allows users to create and edit six second looping videos. After perusing the app for a weekend, there’s a part of me that feels vindicated—even if I have to call them Bytes now, Vines are just an inherently superior format than TikToks. I just hope the platform takes off.
When Vine was murdered by Twitter in 2016, the creators promised a Vine 2. But that was four years ago, and Vine 2 started feeling like vaporware. So when I saw friends of mine delightedly announcing that Vine 2, now called Byte, had actually launched this weekend, I immediately had to download it and see if I could recapture the magic of the community that brought us “Back At It Again At Krispy Kreme.”
The good news is yes, unequivocally, the six second looping video is still one of the better avenues for bite-sized (har de har) comedy content online. A video that short forces the user to cut the fat on their jokes and use shorthand that’s easily readable in order to enhance their punchlines. Users on Byte are immediately taking to the format in a way that feels undeniably Vine-like. Sometimes, other users point it out. I’ve seen a couple comments reading “big Vine energy on this one” on particularly popular Bytes. Byte also offers the ability to add sound effects, and some other rudimentary video editing tools, but it doesn’t matter. All you need is six seconds, the ability to cut between shots, and a loop, and you have a perfect canvas for bits both lackadaisical, like Byte user Henryy showing the viewer a literal bowl of black eyed peas and asking which one is Fergie, to more high effort jokes, like user BrendonCescon’s weirdo ads for things like Kraft Macaroni and Cheese (“it triples the size of your dick!”). The only thing that is missing so far is the ability to embed or link to videos off of the platform. Gotta cross pollinate with Twitter y’all!
It’s not like newcomers to Byte are unaware of the elephant in the room, though. In the intervening years between Vine and Byte, a new video app has come onto the scene and largely dominated it: TikTok. TikTok gives users more tools to make their videos—filters, adding text to the screen, lip syncing—and they’re also longer, and can last up to a minute. There are some very, very good TikToks in the world, including this one, which is so expertly choreographed that it blows my mind to watch it:
But in terms of comedy, TikTok is bleak. When you give people more tools, they tend to use them. Therefore, most of the gags on TikTok are reliant on labels, music, or even lip syncing to be understandable. There’s a buy in to these jokes, making them much less easily digestible than your average Byte, which only requires your eyeballs and ability to read a narrative. Still, Byte users are bracing themselves for an influx of users from TikTok, making jokes that poke fun at the rival platform along the way. If there are any memes on Byte in its infancy, it’s that people who comment “follow for follow” are annoying, and TikTok users are going to have a hard time uploading dance videos on Byte.
I hope that Byte takes off, but part of me thinks that the six second video’s time has passed. The users of Byte are generally older than the ones on TikTok. While I have a hard time finding users who are over 20 on TikTok, on Byte you’re more likely to follow people who have a full beard than not. This format is no longer at the zeitgeist, and the teens clearly love the tools that TikTok gives them to make videos. I think Byte is clearly, obviously better than TikTok. I just don’t know if the teens will.